U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today will reintroduce four bills focused on supporting Americans who can increasingly expect to work in a variety of jobs over a lifetime in the workforce. As a member of the Finance and Banking Committees, Sen. Warner has been a national leader in putting forward sensible, innovative policies to support workers in a changing economy, and signaled today that he will maintain his focus on preparing Americans for the future of work in the 116th Congress.
“Changes in the nature of work mean that Americans are more likely to change jobs and be engaged in non-traditional forms of work than they were a generation ago – but our federal policies haven’t kept up with those economic shifts,” said Sen. Warner. “We can’t and shouldn’t try to regulate our economy into looking like it did 50 years ago, but we can and must do a far better job than we’ve been doing to prepare workers for economic shifts and changes in the nature of work. If we want to grow our economy and expand opportunity, Congress has to take steps to increase access to skills training and support workers with access to flexible, portable benefits that carry from job to job.”
One recent study found that by the year 2030, up to one-third of American workers will need to retrain or change jobs to keep up with disruptions due to automation and a changing economy. A pair of the bills Sen. Warner introduced today would encourage employers and employees to invest in education and training that will help workers move up the economic ladder despite those economic trends. The Investing in American Workers Act would encourage employers to invest more in quality skills training for their workers by creating a tax credit – similar to the R&D tax credit – that would encourage businesses to spend money training lower- and moderate-income workers. Likewise, the Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act will make lifelong learning more accessible for low- and moderate-income workers by establishing a tax-preferred savings account with a generous government match to help support workers seeking to retrain or upskill over the course of their careers.
The Investing in American Workers Act is co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act is co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).
Another pair of bills being introduced today will support the growing number of Americans who are part of the independent workforce. The bipartisan Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act would establish a $20 million grant fund for states, localities and nonprofit organizations to experiment with portable benefits models for the growing independent workforce.
As much as a third of the U.S. workforce is currently engaged in temporary, contract or on-demand work, but those who earn all or some of their income as independent contractors, part-time workers, temporary workers or contingent workers find it difficult and expensive to access benefits and protections that are commonly provided to full-time employees, such as paid leave, workers’ compensation, skills training, unemployment insurance, tax withholding and tax-advantaged retirement savings. The bill will support innovation and experimentation with portable benefits models that would allow workers to carry these benefits with them from job to job across a lifetime in the workforce.
The legislation boasts strong bipartisan support from Sens. Todd Young (R-IN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Angus King (I-ME) and John Hoeven (R-ND).
The fourth bill would similarly support workers with non-traditional work arrangements by expanding access to mortgages while protecting consumers. The Self-Employed Mortgage Access Act, which will be introduced along with fellow Banking Committee member Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) as well as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), would help creditworthy borrowers with non-traditional forms of income – including the self-employed and gig workers – by allowing lenders to verify an applicant’s income using additional forms of documentation other than the W-2.
A recent study from the Urban Institute found that homeownership rates among the self-employed have declined since the financial crisis, even though self-employed households earn, on average, higher incomes than salaried households – suggesting that mortgage access and document requirements may present an additional barrier to homeownership among this part of the American workforce. The Self-Employed Mortgage Access Act would expand the types of documentation that self-employed individuals could submit to demonstrate they are a credit-worthy borrower and banks could use to keep a loan in qualifying mortgage status.
“As new technologies and globalization continue to redefine our economy and transform the nature of work, policymakers need to keep pace and create policies that are responsive to the challenges of the 21st century. This set of reforms and investments will better prepare our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow, while ensuring that we are redesigning a benefits structure that protects our entire workforce. These policies are critical to building a more resilient and competitive economy,” said Alastair Fitzpayne, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative.
“We applaud Senator Warner's commitment to these issues, which go to the heart of the fundamental challenges affecting Americans' economic opportunity and security. Having worked with state and local leaders throughout the country to identify policies that provide high quality workforce training and a modern safety net, it is clear that adapting to the need for lifelong learning and to providing benefits that move with workers between jobs are among the most important goals for elected officials to pursue in the modern economy. The federal government's role should include supporting state experimentation on some of the most difficult challenges, like delivering portable benefits for the millions of workers who are serving as independent contractors, switching jobs frequently, and otherwise working in ways that don’t look like traditional employment. We thank Senator Warner for all of his efforts to make the future of work a priority in this Congress,” said Jonathon Dworkin, Director of Policy and Communications for The NewDEAL, a national network of state and local leaders working to expand opportunity for all Americans in the changing economy.
“For too long, independent workers have been on their own when it comes to accessing benefits, obtaining new skills, and getting help building their businesses. At Thumbtack, we’re proud to help entrepreneurs connect to their calling and grow their careers, and we appreciate Senator Warner’s leadership in addressing the changing economy head-on so that all workers have the tools they need to access opportunity and security,” said Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta.